There are many opportunities for passengers to kayak. // © 2017 Uncruise Adventures
Feature image (above): Guests can spot white-faced capuchin monkeys in their natural habitat. // © 2017 Getty Images
Everyone who knows me knows my idea of an epic vacation. It typically includes plenty of wildlife viewing — ideally, in the creatures’ natural habitats — and is paired with rainforest hikes; exploration of remote, tropical beaches; and snorkeling and kayaking in warm waters and gentle seas. And after busy days of outdoor adventures, nights involve cocktails and dinner with new friends, as well as sharing stories and photos from the day.
Luckily for me, I was able to combine all these activities in a fun, all-inclusive and educational vacation with UnCruise Adventures during its new eight-night Unveiled Wonders: Costa Rica & Panama Canal itinerary onboard Safari Voyager. Even better? The sailing began with checking off a bucket-list item on our very first day onboard: a transit through the Panama Canal.
The morning after our Panama Canal transit, we awoke to find ourselves anchored off Iguana Island — a 136-acre reserve surrounded by the oldest coral reef in the Gulf of Panama — where we had the opportunity to snorkel, kayak and paddleboard by a beach that looked like it was plucked from a postcard.
Each subsequent day of our cruise brought us to exotic beaches and lush rainforests for off-the-beaten-path exploration. UnCruise guides know the destinations well, but they still go out early in the morning to scout the best landings and paths. Every day, passengers had several options for excursions, whether it was kayaking, strolling the beach, birdwatching in the mangroves or practicing yoga in the garden of a beautiful hideaway lodge. Simply put, there was no room for couch potatoes on this cruise.
During these excursions, my heart melted at the sight of baby howler monkeys swinging through the tree branches or being carried by their moms. We also encountered spider monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys and tamarin monkeys, and the variety of birds was incredible — if you’ve never seen a toucan up close, you’re in for a treat.
When we weren’t enjoying time onshore, we were filling our bellies back onboard. The executive chef and his staff prepare mouthwatering meals three times daily, and the pastry chef bakes fresh breads, pastries and cookies every day (making the extra pounds I came home with totally worth it).
There’s a breakfast for early risers in the lounge every morning, followed by a hot breakfast buffet in the dining room. Lunch and dinner offer fresh and local choices, including a vegetarian option with customizable options. Hors d’oeuvres are served in the lounge or on deck during cocktail hour, and dinner is a multicourse affair that’s paired with wine. Special dietary requests can be accommodated if requested in advance.
All cabins onboard Safari Voyager have oceanview windows; a desk and chair; air-conditioning; a television and DVD player; and ample closet and drawer space. Our Commander category stateroom’s small bathroom featured a shower and toilet, but our sink was in the bedroom. This seemed odd at first, but it worked surprisingly well for two people getting ready at the same time. (Other categories feature larger bathrooms and options for a third occupant. There are also two single cabins available.)
It should be noted that everything, except for gratuities, is included in the cruise fare. This includes pre-cruise accommodations in Panama City; shore excursions; adventure activities and equipment; wine, beer and spirits; and even a 30-minute massage.
Evenings after dinner can be spent in the lounge, on deck under the stars or in the privacy of your cabin. Several evenings offered educational presentations from the crew on topics relevant to the areas we visited. Jigsaw puzzles become group efforts, fostering camaraderie and teamwork.
And when bedtime finally arrives, chances are, you’ll sleep like a baby after the day’s activities and all that nourishment for the body and soul.